Welcome to my 2020 Blogging A-Z April Challenge. Each day, I will post a Journal On! Daily Writers’ Workshops lesson and prompt. Teachers, parents, and students may use the material to encourage daily writing practice, spark insight, and embrace mindful reflection.
Let’s start from the very beginning—a very good place to start (I couldn’t resist).
We first need writing equipment—paper and pencils. These days, the physical task of writing is not practiced as it was when I was a kid. Handwriting curriculums have become optional. I loved my stationery sets and enjoyed receiving pretty diaries and buying the seasonal stamps. Today’s world demands our attention and quick responses.
As much as technology has given us access to spelling, dictionaries, syntax, and legible fonts, there are huge advantages to composing and physically writing by hand. Handwriting notes, assignments, and, yes, journal entries improve short and long term memory retention and recall, sharpen critical thinking and problem-solving skills, and enhance comprehension. Check out the review of studies from Cornerstone University.
Let’s look at the equipment we need for journaling. When choosing the paper and pens, keep in mind that your writing tools will be with you, near you, and have a place that is yours. Decide what kind of journal you may like. Do you like composition notebooks with a sturdy cover or a small notepad that may fit in your pocket? Do you like the journals with inspirational quotes that may get you thinking?
Consider the binding of the spine. Do you want to fold the pages, so they lay flat as with spiral-bound notebooks, or is a sturdy sewn spine your preference?
Now take a look at the paper. Note the line spacing and color. Some people like narrow spacing with faded lines to gently guide the sentences from falling off a line. Others need the space and a bold line and perhaps colored paper to offset challenging room lighting. Other writers are incredible doodlers and need blank pages to draw and jot as their words flow.
I prefer journals that fit in whatever my current pocketbook dimensions dictate. I like a spiral-bound book with a hardcover, so the writing surface is solid, and I can write to the very ends of the right and left margins. Defined lines are a must! I also prefer a not-so-thick notebook. I can get bored with the cover and be tempted to abandon it even if there are hundreds of pages left to fill. A thin 80-100 page notebook is perfect, and I can fill it within a season.
For emergent writers, consider providing writing paper with a drawing section and developmental lines. The solid and dotted lines provide visual and spatial cues to support the early practice of writing letters and words. The writing paper shown is from kindermomma.com. Keep the pages in a folder so that it may be saved for the teachers’ review when we all return to our classrooms. Besides, decorating folders is a fun activity.
The bottom line is, you must like your journal. You must like picking it up, having it near you, and everyone must know it is yours.
Writing instruments are next. I love pens. I keep a mug full of varying pens and ink colors. Some have a fine point making my writing look very sharp. The gel pens glide so smoothly. Good-ol’ fashion ballpoint pens get the job done. Some days I look for pens with retractable clickers. Clicking seems to help me think.
Choose a pen you like to hold and carry. Weight and balance are features to consider, as well. For a while, I picked pens that fit behind my ear, thereby being conveniently available. However, it is not a safe habit to model for kids. Besides, I now wear glasses full time and the earpiece temples crowd out the pens behind my ear..
Pencils have their place. Young students may want to have the option to erase their errors and false starts. Have a handy soft bevel eraser handy. If young writers want to use the pencil toppers at the end of the pencil, be sure the balance and weight of the eraser do not interfere with letter formations.
Now that we have your journals and writing instruments let’s try our first prompt. I organized the prompts into three levels.
- Primary Prompt is appropriate for Pre-K to 1st-grade children. Drawing and labeling are the main features. Provide adequate sized paper (see the free download or make your own). Encourage your child to attempt their inventive spelling before you give them a letter by letter spelling. If you need to provide spelling and sentence models, write them out neatly on separate paper so that there is a visual cue to go along with the auditory. Also, make sure your child says the letters and words aloud as he copies.
- The Intermediate Prompt is for children between grades 2nd to 5th. Let your young authors ponder the questions before writing. Don’t correct spelling, grammar, and punctuation. Encourage students to read their entry out loud and review on their own.
- Upper-Intermediate Prompt is meant for children in the middle school grades and beyond. At this point, the goal is to write from a stream conscientiousness.
Students, please be thoughtful with your prompts. Give the ideas and words a chance to show how you see the world. Date your work.
Primary Prompt: Draw yourself writing with your writing instrument. What kind of pen or pencil or crayon are you using? Because you are drawing, please use colors. Label yourself, the pen or pencil or crayons. Do you have an expression on your face? LAbel that-happy, excited. In the line section of your journal paper, write a sentence using one of your labeled words. Like: I am writing with my blue pencil. The eraser is green. I feel happy when I write.
Intermediate Prompt (try to answer one or two of these questions, or all!): Write about your journal. What does the cover look like, the lines on the paper, the spine? Is it thin, heavy? What about your pencil or pen. Write about the color, how you hold it in your hand. What is your favorite feature of your journal and writing equipment?
Upper-Intermediate Prompt: How did you acquire your journal and your writing instrument? Were they gifts, from whom? Or did you choose it yourself, buy it, find it at home or make it yourself? How does your pen fit in your hand? Why did you choose this pen? A story may be beginning from your answers.
Until tomorrow, Everyone.
Antoinette Truglio Martin is the author of Hug Everyone You Know: A Year of Community, Courage, and Cancer. The memoir is a wimpy patient’s journey through her first year of breast cancer treatment.